Christian growth catches fire where life and Scripture meet. We change when, in the midst of our day-to-day joys, sorrows, sufferings, and sins, we encounter Jesus Christ through his Word and find his grace and mercy for our time of need. We help others change when, in the midst of their day-to-day joys, sorrows, sufferings, and sins, we point them to Jesus Christ through his Word to find grace and mercy for their time of need. Scripture tells us that this is an ongoing process. The stories of our lives are to be shaped and reshaped, again and again, so that we might be increasingly transformed into the character of our God (2 Peter 1:4).
But how do we find the intersection between life and Scripture? Connecting the stories of our lives with the redemptive story of Scripture is often challenging. There are certain life struggles that defy an easy appeal to the Bible. Can we really find hope and practical help in Scripture for complex and thorny problems? What about hope and help for the ordinary, day-to-day struggles common to all: conflict between family members, financial strain, and vocational decisions? And what do we do with passages of Scripture that seem irrelevant to our lives? How are the directions for building the Tabernacle and consecrating the priesthood (Exodus 25-30), genealogies (1 Chronicles 1-9), a personal appeal to a slave-holder (Philemon), and much of the book of Revelation applicable to life? Can we find hope and practical help from these passages as well? How does Scripture apply to our lives, really?
This conference will increase our confidence that Scripture is not only relevant but essential to helping us navigate life in all its beautiful and distressing complexity. It will demonstrate how the Redeemer Jesus Christ meets us through his Word. It will teach us how to see and embrace the life-giving connections between our lives and the Bible, giving us hope and clarity both in our suffering and in our struggles with sin. Once we see them, these connections form the building blocks for all counseling and ministry to others.
Loving Your Bible: A Personal Invitation
We want to read Scripture. We want to read it more. We want to read it better. We want it to be increasingly lively to our souls. But this is hard to do, for many reasons. So let’s start by having Scripture persuade us to read Scripture.
Understanding Scripture: How the Story of Scripture Makes Sense of the Stories of Our Lives
Sometimes we read passages of Scripture that seem to be at odds with the reality of life in this world. So what do we do then? Deem the Scripture to be untrue, unreliable, out-of-touch? What we must do is dig deeper for understanding. Every part of Scripture must be understood within the whole. This means that we need a firm grip on the larger story the Bible is telling. Not only does this larger story help us to make sense of smaller parts of the Bible; this larger story is what makes sense of our own stories. As we grow in our understanding of the story of Scripture, we come to understand why our lives will never be without struggle. But we also discover grounds for unshakable hope for the future and the source of our ultimate security.
Mirror, Mirror: Seeing Yourself Clearly in Scripture
Where do you go to make sense of the complexities of people’s lives? To understand what makes them (and you) tick? The latest neuroscientific research? Psychological theories? The DSM? Your neighbor? Oprah? Scripture invites us to look deeply into its pages to understand ourselves as God’s redeemed image bearers who wrestle with both suffering and sin. This session will demonstrate that while Scripture does not give us a chapter and verse for every specific situation in life, it provides a comprehensive, gospel-centered lens to truly understand ourselves and our problems. Knowing that God approaches his people as saints, sufferers, and sinners primes us to expect a relevant word in whatever passage we are hearing, reading, or studying.
Practically Speaking: How to Bring the Bible to (Your) Life
It’s easy to talk about applying Scripture to life, but how do we really take a message spoken to God’s people thousands of years ago and make it our own today? How do we take the redemptive story that centers on Jesus Christ and enact it in our own lives? How do the Bible’s narratives, promises, poetry, prophecy, commands, and more not only inform us but transform us through the agency of the Holy Spirit? Building on the last two general sessions, this session will model how to connect a particular passage with the specifics of life in order to find comfort in your suffering and clarity for overcoming sin in your life.
Praying Scripture: The Cry of the Longing Heart
We were not created to “live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3/Matt. 4:4). Our inner lives flourish as God’s Word shapes us. It makes sense then that prayer that is permeated with every word that proceeds from the mouth of God is infused and pulsing with life. Whether in praise, petition, or lament, God tempers the cry of our heart with Word-driven grace as we embrace his Word in prayer.
Common Ground? Scripture, Counseling, and Nonbelievers
The single most common question CCEF receives in our school’s classrooms is: “how do you counsel nonbelievers?” This question is an important one. After all, if the hope, comfort, and promises of Scripture are all found in Christ, do biblical counselors have anything to say to agnostics, atheists, or those of other faiths before they put their faith in Christ? The answer is a resounding “yes, we do!” This session will lay out a framework for biblical counseling with nonbelievers, applying the previous sessions to the challenging task of engaging God’s Word with those who don’t yet accept or believe it.
The Living and Active Word of God
God is always doing something with his Word. Scripture is not simply a deposit of information but a living and active word. That means that when God speaks things happen. We see that in the creation account – God speaks creation into being. We see it in the ministry of Christ – God speaks to the storm and it is still. God’s Word is relational – Scripture doesn’t tell us about God, it is the place of encounter with God. But since personal communication requires a person to speak and another to listen, the question we must ask is this: how is our listening?
Applying Scripture to Life with the Person in Front of You
Have you experienced the heartbreak of sincerely sharing a passage of Scripture with a loved one who is suffering, only to find the connection falls flat? As people seeking to love God and love others well, we feel the weight of these missed connections, and want to grow. Proverbs captures the dynamic we long for: “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply, and how good is a timely word!” In a roundtable discussion, David Powlison, Mike Emlet, and Darby Strickland brought their collective decades of counseling experience and considered how we can grow in “giving an apt reply,” and speaking “a timely word” to others.